Lessons learned by designing a new way of learning.

There are very few people in the world who have had the privilege of witnessing radical changes in the lives of other people thanks to the combination of education and technology at scale. I have been very lucky to be one of them. 

The study, experimentation and data analysis that I went through during the last ten years has allowed me to witness hundreds of transformations which had previously seemed impossible. Learning and helping others to learn has been, is, and will be the main focus of my life.

The goal of this article is to share examples of good educational practices that I have had the opportunity to witness. On some occasions I was incredibly privileged to able to participate in their design, in collaboration with some of the most advanced and innovative institutions that exist today.

However, before we dig into it, please let me start this story by giving you some context about my personal story.

My Education.

Ever since I was little my dad had to force me into going to school every morning. I think this was representative of how much the idea of school motivated me.

Despite having been through almost all levels of the European Education System, there has always been something about the school experience that I did not fully agree with. Like many passions in life, when they are involuntary and enforced by a third party in a standardised manner, they usually turn into suffering. Even the things that we love the most.

The American psychologist Dr. Peter Gray, author of numerous clinical trials and studies1 of learning in children, said: “We are so blinded by the idea that children must be forced to learn that we cannot imagine the possibility of children learning much more if we did not force them”.

After the classic “study to the test” school experience, I decided to enroll a the Electrical Engineering at the Polytechnical University of Madrid.  Around that time this “degree” was known for only being accessible to bright students, who typically ended up at investment banks, in technology or at strategy consultancies. It was a combination of “dare at the reach of few” and the supposed high chances of being “socially valuable” that made me choose this path.

Following the mentality of “performing” I embarked on a five year journey in one of the most academically demanding engineering schools in the country. Despite not having much free time, I spent most of the little I did have on two things: 

1. Teaching maths and physics to younger students

2. Learning to speak English, which enabled me to go to two of the places that radically changed my life: The University of California at Berkeley, and Harvard University in Boston.

In the classroom I was just another student, listening to an unending stream of information from teachers that, in general, repeated the same Fourier Transformations or Maxwell’s equations year after year, exam after exam.

When I taught, however, I relished the freedom to experiment. We proved Hooke’s law with weights and springs, and tested Archimedes’ principle in the kitchen. We observed the Doppler effect with two drops of water in the sink, exploring everything together, rather than being teacher and students. It was creative, fun, and in many cases, unforgettable for everyone involved. If it had not been for those students and the hundreds of hours of work in scientific-based experiments I would have never been able to become an engineer.

It was only once I finished my university education that I really became a learning machine. Having regained my independence, I rigorously studied everything I could find about the human learning process – from the most fundamental aspects (biology, physics, chemistry, and its emotional components) to the more external aspects (social factors, learning environment and accessibility).

I am not, however, a theorist in the matter. Since 2009 I have been part of the foundational process of multiple companies and organisations whose goal was to better the lives of people by helping them learn effectively. Some projects have been designed for adults, others for children and teenagers, but always in a variety of social circles of people from different backgrounds. Sometimes, it was the design of learning programmes for high earning technology companies in Silicon Valley, and others they were for refugee camps in Greece. I have treated them all with the same dedication and respect that they deserve – because the magic of a good education is that it can change lives, even in the most inhospitable places on earth.

Like any other person who has dedicated over a decade to the study and experimentation in a certain field I do not want to ignore the bias that my own opinions carry. During these years I have witnessed a lot of unsuccessful experiments. Other times they have been so transformational, that they have changed the learning paradigm I now use in the design of educational solutions across schools, universities and a breadth of companies. I am well aware that some of my conclusions may potentially be refuted by new scientific advances in the matter in the future. Everybody who works in this field is constantly experimenting, looking to be  corrected by data -and the market- when we are wrong.

Towards a new way of learning

I would recommend reading in depth “The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux”2 by Cathy N. Davidson. In her book, Davidson provides a fantastic description of the evolution that the education system has undergone since Taylorism of the 20th century, to the world in the 21st century.

In sync with Cathy’s theory, I believe we are in a time of change of the productive paradigm from Taylorism to something else:

In Taylorism, the productive model that leads education is industrial and specialised. Teaching is used to standardise processes and generate efficiency in industrial production. For this purpose, it is necessary to train individuals in a disciplinary manner (lawyers, engineers, architects…) as engaged pieces of a larger machine.  Individuals must, therefore, be specialised and replaceable, so that if one fails another “specialist” can step in and the system can continue working.

We can observe this legacy system in the majority of schools and universities all over the world. We are still training students in abilities that are evaluated by a test that determines their aptitude to receive a certificate or degree at the end.

On the other hand, in the tech-enabled world that we are working towards, the majority of functions that can be done as a standardised chain will be done by information technology. In this context, the individual stops being a piece in a machine, and becomes a unique part in an active network (similar to a neural structure). For this reason, instead of memorising, students participating in this new way of learning are taught to extract conclusions, integrate disciplines that allow them to make complex decisions helping to adapt interconnected systems to any unexpected changes.

New institutions recently created are building programs towards a completely different education system, although they are still a work in progress. Many of these new schools have less than a decade of trajectory, and their efficiency will only be evaluated with time. It is promising, however, to see that innovative schools like Minerva University in the US, LIS in The UK, or Tomorrow University in Germany receiving official awarding powers in the last couple years.

The principles

Under the Taylorist educational paradigm, the individuals’ objective is to reach the peak of knowledge through the construction of increasingly specialised degrees. However, in the new way of learning this objective transforms. The individual is more valuable to society if her connections in the network are active and strong in a relevant group or network. By “relevant”, I refer to a group of people, areas of knowledge or professional experience relevant to today’s society.

Please think about this fictitius example: who would you hire to develop your company’s Machine Learning/AI transformation?:

a) an engineer who graduated cum-laude and specialised in an academic institution without a relevant professional network

b) an engineer without an academic title who has worked 5 years with Tesla, been publicly recommended by Elon Musk and has had experience working with the team that developed navigation systems that the company will use in the future

While the market of advanced education in the world is increasing3, the students at institutions of advanced education in the USA have been decreasing around 7-8%  over the period 2020 to 2022. The arrival of alternatives, and the lack of efficiency of traditional degrees, encourages students to try other routes.

In 2020, Minerva University, an institution that had not yet been fully accredited in the United States (later accredited in 2022) received over 25 000 applications, and admitted only 2% (a lower percentage than Ivy League universities). This is an institution without a campus, where the classes take place online through a tool called “Forum”. In 2022, the London Interdisciplinary School (LIS) opened its doors, and became the first interdisciplinary programme of problems and methods to receive recognition by the English regulator since the 1960s. Both institutions’ admissions were not based on the students’ academic records, but on their background, circumstances and talent4.

At Minds Studio I have had the pleasure of working with both universities (Minerva and LIS) in the design of a small part of their new programmes. Looking back across the last 10 years, considering the design of these and other various projects of this new way of Learning, I have put into practice two key principles: 

  1. Students should develop transferable skills. These abilities should allow them to resolve problems or complex situations that they have never seen before, independently of the moment in time in which they are tested (eliminating the “study to the test” mentality).
  1. The learning experience should bring a substantial change in the students’ social environment, generating a community of people that they can turn to during any part of this process.

This new way of learning (and teaching) requires significant effort in redesign, and should be careful not to fall foul to the mistake of simply giving the old system a makeover. Educational institutions resistant to adapt to change will soon become irrelevant, as the latest figures of student enrollment show5

However, just because the principles of construction are changing it does not mean that existing institutions lack them. They are, simply, different from the earlier ones. 

Let me use another example to illustrate this concept, using a physical analogy. Gravity, physics and architectural principles apply the same way to build a small house in the countryside, than to build a cathedral in the heart of a city. When we talk about the architecture of learning, the same thing occurs. If the foundation is solid, the result will make everyone who passes by it feeling good, and what is being built will stay strong and useful for many years.

Unfortunately, the previous education paradigm is filled with “prefabricated programs”, and our students are looking for something much much better.

Materials to build a new way of learning

Following the example given earlier, and without wanting to excuse the lack of reflection and principles in many educational programmes, in some way this lack of technique is not unusual.

Historically, humans started building their homes with sticks, stones and everything in their reach. With time, advances in technology and science created a new field of specialised knowledge that allows us to build bridges and skyscrapers in diverse environments. I want to believe that we find ourselves in a prehistoric time when it comes to learning science. We should look to add our grain of sand in building this necessary evolution.

What are those materials that are being used to build this new way of learning then? Let me review some of those I am aware of so far:

1. Learning is an emotional activity. Therefore, its design needs to manage emotions and participation should be optional

Neuroscience has proven that the connections between neurons produced in the brain are stronger and longer lasting when there are emotions (positive or negative) involved in the creation of a new memory or fact6. It has been sufficiently proven that the prefrontal region of the brain plays a key role in decision making and short term memory. However it is the limbic system, the primary region of the brain controlling our emotions, that is associated with long term memory. This is where we want our students to store the skills and knowledge we are teaching them.

Therefore to achieve solid learning we must think about which emotions we want to provoke in the student from the primary emotions (surprise, sadness, fear, anger, happiness or disgust). Traditionally, fear (“the final exam” “the grades”), has been the leading factor on this learning journey. 

However, when we make this experience optional, past experience has shown us that it is possible to reach a state that allows the student to “flow”7, transforming learning into something enjoyable. It can also cement itself into our memory through surprise, happiness and other secondary emotions like pleasure and pride.

When learning is a voluntary activity, the students are much more receptive to creating new connections in their brain than if they were forced to learn by memory. This is due to the fact that most students that are forced to go to class disconnect their limbic system and limit themselves to being present but not receptive.

2. Learning goals should be designed based on the science of learning and not to “go through content” or prepare an exam.

The following example was extracted from Dr. David Kohler’s Skills for Trainers course8. If we wanted a group of students to be able to start a fire in the case that they might need this knowledge at an emergency, we would have a few ways to do it:

Under the paradigm of individual learning, we would create a curriculum that could explain step by step the different phases that are necessary to create a fire with rocks, sticks and other materials. To finish we would prepare an individual exam that, once it is over, would give the student the credential that proves they are capable of starting a fire.

However, there are other ways to achieve complete and solid learning. Firstly, establishing a clear objective (“the students will be capable of successfully lighting a fire under adverse circumstances”). Then, defining what successful learning outcomes look like (for example, creating and maintaining a fire for 10 minutes in any weather). And finally, adjusting the difficulty of the assessment to the experience of the student based on the surrounding conditions (students will only have sticks and stones, for example).

With the second approach, the learning experience becomes a collaborative effort. It is likely that some students will master the skill faster than others, but all participants experienced the creation of fire first hand. Students are aware that this ability may need to be used in an unexpected situation, for example, when they get lost in the mountains and they need to keep warm on a rainy day. Not just on the test day.

Now imagine that the process is repeated multiple times during the life of the student with a community of people with whom they create trustworthy relationships. This will achieve, in a natural manner, an improvement in the student’s long term memory and the overall learning experience.

3. Solid learning requires learning how to collaborate with people from different backgrounds who join forces for a project or common goal

If we thought of learning as the construction of a building, we would not expect only one person to be in charge of all of the necessary activities for its construction. In the same manner, to learn a new skill it is necessary to know other meta skills that allow us to interact with people from different backgrounds, disciplines and experiences. This could be applied to building a house or learning something new (playing the piano, singing, etc.).

This is why it is fundamental to look at learning as a social process and not an individual one. We are continually adding experiences and connections throughout time that form a group of disciplines that the students combine in a unique manner. Following the earlier example, an engineer will learn how to play a piano in a very different manner to a writer, but doing it together will make it easier and more effective for both of them.

4. The speed and depth of the lesson should depend on the individuals and their circumstances, and it should not be forced but facilitated in a coherent manner.

In the same way each human body is different to any other, the mind is different as well. If a person has the ability to run 100 metres in 10 seconds we would not as that person to run the same length as someone who weights 140kg, or one that has an injury preventing them from walking.

However, it seems like mental agility is treated in a different manner than the purely physical, and this causes a lot of students to abandon their studies because of a lack of confidence in their capabilities. A good learning experience design will take this into consideration.

5. Learning is a muscle we need to use, not a finish line we need to cross.

The evaluation is just a component of the learning process, with the goal of informing the student on what they should work on or review. However, the most important thing is not to reach the end of a course but to never stop finding goals, keeping our learning journey going.

Staying in shape, therefore, is the main objective of any solid and sustainable learning programme. If this is not the case the individual will end up throwing away developed abilities into a metaphorical junk drawer.

From my personal point of view, qualifications that lack a continuous evaluation process do not have validity if they are not re-evaluated after certain periods of time.

The journey we have yet to go through

Even though it seems unbelievable, the great revolution of information and communication has changed the production models of the planet in less than 30 years.

The standardised education system as we know it is a little over 120 years old, originating from a need to supply workers during the industrial revolution due to a lack of qualified teachers. Therefore it makes sense that we find ourselves in a time of transition from one model of education to another, and the existence of changes in the paradigm that are not yet accepted by the majority of the population.

Those who have understood that learning is a muscle that we need to use often have become the biggest agents of change in the society that we live in, and are highly sought after.

I have seen with my own eyes the transformation of many people who had no job nor prospects, develop a new skill in just a few months thanks to this new paradigm. After just a few months they started receiving 15-20 weekly messages from headhunters and all sorts of business. I have also seen children who hated going to school suddenly develop a passion for learning. An exciting future awaits all of them.

I am aware that they are not the majority and that there is still a long way to go. But I also think that if we build a firm base with the right materials and we follow the principles that work well, we will build a better way of learning and a better society.

Our students will move us, surprise us, and will become our great teachers along the way.

Alvaro Sanmartin Cid

Originally published by “Nueva Revista“, UNIR. 2021.

References:

1 Peter Gray, https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/freedom-learn

2 Cathy N. Davidson, https://www.cathydavidson.com/books/the-new-education/

3 Calderón, Massification of Higher Education revisited

4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Interdisciplinary_School

5 CNBC, More colleges face bankrupcy even as top schools face record wealth

6 Learning how to learn, by Barbara Oakley. https://barbaraoakley.com/books/

7 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow

8 David Kohler, PhD. https://hydralabs.co/team/david-kohler/

Learning is a team sport, not a single player game.

At Minds Studio, we are in constant experimentation and sometimes new revelations appear along the way and change our world. One of the most transformative ones has been the following change of paradigm:

Learning is not a single player game, but a team sport.

This is not intuitive, as we have spent our lives in schools and universities who approached teaching as a “single player” game. We were assessed by our individual performance through tests and exams designed to measure our knowledge, skill, or how we can apply both to solve problems.

Do you want to learn to play an instrument? Take classes and practice to pass the exam.

Do you want to learn maths? Do your homework, go to class, get a tutor, pass the exam.

This approach leads to the “study to the test” we all know, whose effectiveness for long term skill development are far from ideal . The majority of people take the classes, pass the exam, do their homework and…

…They forget most of it fast.*1

At Minds Studio we realised that, in order for our learning experience designs to stand the test of time, we could not only look at this activity from the individual perspective, but we needed to add a new variable: the learning community.

Because we have all experienced what a team sport is. A group of individuals coming together regularly to contribute individual efforts towards an elevated goal (win the match, classify to the next round, etc.).

Sometimes, people just gather for practising their skills (like basketball training, or a tennis class). But other times, they gather in front of an audience to assess and test their skills (as we evaluate for the next karate belt, or we play a football tournament over the weekend). In those special moments, people usually invite their loved ones (friends, family, partners…) and they celebrate their successes -when they happen- together.

And this is important.

Do team sports generate knowledge and skills in each participant? YES

Do those skills stand the test of time? YES, much better than if we were playing alone.

Why don’t we do this when we learn a new skill at school?

…hmm…hmm…

Designing learning with the community in mind

After careful consideration, we realised that if we wanted to commit to designing the best learning experiences possible, we could not limit ourselves to the individual. We had to understand the learning environments as much as learning process or outcomes*2.

Model of the LEPO framework, by Rob Phillips, Camel McNaught and Gregor Kennedy available HERE on ResearchGate

Going back to our earlier sports example, think about what needs to go right in order to become a karateka:

  1. Find the right Dojo (‘Dojo’ is a Japanese word that means ‘place of the pursuit’ . The word ‘do’ meaning ‘the way’ or ‘the pursuit’ and ‘jo’ meaning ‘a place’) – The right learning environment
  2. Find the right teacher and practice regularly throught the different levels during a sustained period of time (Apparently, around 5 years to reach the black belt) – The right learning process
  3. Demonstrate certain skills that build up on top of each other every time you are assessed in order to “be awarded” the next belt. – The right learning outcomes

Generally, once you approach the mastering of a skill, the way to keep the “muscle of learning” active, is to continuously use it and start teaching it to others – as it usually happens in martial arts-.

What does “community learning” mean?

Education has been mostly focused on the learning outcomes (Generally crystallised by degrees or certificates) and the learning processes ( Which are mostly determined by the teachers). Little attention has been given to the learning environment, especially to the interactions of the learning community. This is actually the key element that keeps the learner coming back to continuously learn, even after the assessment (exam, test, etc.) has passed.

“Community” is a magic word that most projects aspire to have, but very few really dedicate the efforts and resources it deserves, given its importance on long-term effectiveness during the learning journey.

“Community” is hard, because it is complex. As any “environment”, it is a combination of little details that make you feel welcome, or excited, or it could very easily turn into cold or too much for me.

“Community” is not just a network of people, although many people just refer to their network as such. Community is a group of people who keep coming together over what they care about*3. A course has an end date, if we really care about what we learned, we should continue to be connected after all the coursework is done.

A community uses technology, but it is not a tech tool.

The same way a cook will use different utensils to prepare a great dish, a great learning community will need a lot of tools, but the tools themselves won’t solve the problem. You would be going to bed hungry if nobody acted on the tools and the processes needed to enjoy a good meal. Learning communities need human minds to build the environment, the process and the outcomes so it evokes the feeling in the learner that the journey is seamless.

Many companies try to solve the “community” problem by just providing tools to their users, and waiting for them to engage with them. Our experience is that that it just won’t work.

Our commitment to building inspiring communities

We believe any company or institution that aims to educate people to acquire skills, tools or knowledge, are in the business of building a learning community. However, we also know many of them don’t know it yet.

We aim to become a reliable partner in the process of building and nurturing effective and inspiring learning communities, and we are changing our work focus at the Studio accordingly.

In order to do that, we know we need to find the best talent (learning designers, experience designers, tech experts, product managers, etc.) to work with us on that journey. We also need to find the companies daring to invest in an intangible but strategic asset for their businesses.

We will explain more about our community learning framework soon. If you’d like to know more about it, please register below:

*1 “Exploring Cramming: Student Behaviors, Beliefs, and Learning Retention in the Principles of Marketing”. Shelby H. McIntyre and J. Michael Munson.

*2 “Towards a generalised conceptual framework for learning: the Learning Environment, Learning Processes and Learning Outcomes (LEPO) framework”. Rob Phillips, Carmel McNaught, Gregor Kennedy.

*3 “Get together: How to build a community with your people” Bailey Richardson, Kevin Huynh, Kai Elmer Sotto.

2021 at Minds Studio

This has been, without doubt, the best and most productive year at the Studio so far. This is a review of the products and initiatives that have been launched during the last 12 months, and the plans for 2022:

InspirEd by Galileo

Galileo is a Global, Forward-Thinking School For Self-Directed Learners. Minds Studio has been working with Galileo since 2020, and 3 initiatives have been launched so far.

After gathering 10,000+ people in the Homeschooling Global Summit, and launching the Family Experience Days, the leadership team was looking for a more regular initiative to keep the conversation alive all year round.

The team came up with the design of a series of Clubhouse events that run 3 times a week. Conversations are recorded and published via the InspirEd podcast, and the InspirEd Magazine.

Since July 2021, InspirEd has hosted +50 Conversations. We have hosted some of the most prestigious leaders in the Alternative Education space, growing the Galileo community to a new level geographically, and in terms of audience.

PAZ Talent Accelerator explosive growth

PAZ is bridging the skills gap by connecting forcibly displaced talent with the tech industry. At the Studio, we have been working at PAZ on different projects since its inception in 2018.

This innovative social enterprise, led by Leticia Galdón, has reached unimaginable results in 2021. With over 600 applications, the operations grew faster than ever. The team had to grow, new funds arrived, mentors network expanded an order of magnitude. 8 out of 10 forcibly displaced professionals that went through the program took back control of their lives through a new job in tech. Mind blowing.

Multiple technical and educational systems needed to be designed to prepare the company to this kind of growth. 25 Cohorts needed to be organised and coached, +200 interviews arranged. +100 Mentors needed to be onboarded. It was an explosion of interest in Diversity and Inclusion that drove the business into a new stage after +3 years of bootstrapping.

If you’d like to know more about the project, his is one of the multiple interviews that were published about PAZ in 2021:

You’ll hear big news about PAZ in 2022.

LIS opened its doors in London

The London Interdisciplinary School (LIS) is building a new university that prepares students to tackle the most important and complex problems.

LIS, led by Ed Fidoe, brought together a diverse and outstanding group of academics, entrepreneurs, and educationalists to prepare for the 2021 launch. Minds Studio co-created with philosophers, epidemiologists, artists, journalists, behavioural scientists, and mathematicians, and the LIS leadership team some parts of a new learning experience never seen before.

This reimagined university revolves around the concept of Interdisciplinarity. For those new to this concept, it means crossing the boundaries of existing mental models to create new and relevant modes of understanding and experiencing the world.

LIS was the first UK University to receive new awarding powers from the start in over 50 years, and has launched the first official cohort in September 2021. The journey has just begun, and we were excited to be part of its starting point!

Aesthetic Intelligence first learning experience in flight

Aesthetic Intelligence is not simply about beauty; it’s about delight. Aesthetic Businesses don’t just sell goods or services that meet the needs of their customers; they create experiences, memories and connections that last.

Pauline Brown, a renowned expert on luxury branding, and Paula Oriol, a serial entrepreneur, know all about it. They trusted Minds Studio to guide them in the definition and development of the Ed-tech stack to build their first digital learning experience in 2021.

In their own words: “The Minds Studio team helped us set up a learning platform in record time.  More than collaborators, they have the ability to become part of your team and are always ready to take it a step further. Every challenge was overcome with quality and efficiency and where others would have said it was not possible, they insisted and tried to find another solution.

Scoolinary PRO Workshops launched

Scoolinary is the leading on-demand cooking school for professional chefs and foodies. His leader, Jordi Ber, trusted Minds Studio in 2020 to design a new concept of hybrid learning, combining live classes with online videos.

The result was Scoolinary PRO, a learning experience that combines group accountability with live tutoring that launched in early 2021. Students gather in groups to learn with the help of a tutor, that meets with them online once a week.

Since March 2021, several groups of students have met on a monthly basis to improve their cooking skills using the principles of the Minds Studio learning experience, that was tailored to the needs of the Scoolinary subscribers.

Experimenting at the Bitcoin Studio

Bitcoin took a very important role at Minds Studio during 2021. This new digital asset experimented an explosive growth that inspired its adoption globally, including the first country that adopted it as legal tender.

Inspired by the work of Daniel Prince at the Once Bitten Podcast, Minds Studio decided to create a very special learning group that launched in January 2021, meeting once a week for +50 weeks. You can listen to the launch interview HERE.

In the Bitcoin Learning Group, a community of self directed learners help each other understand the technology, values and ethos of this new form of money. If you’d like to experiment it yourself, you can find more information and apply to join the group HERE.

Piloting a new company culture of learning with Interacso

Interacso provides digital solutions with a business perspective in mind. A mix between design, coding and business strategy. Since 2019, Oscar del Río, the founder and CEO of the company, has relied on Minds Studio to encourage a culture of learning, redesigning the classic corporate “upskilling” approaches.

During the Interacso 2021 pilot developed by Minds Studio, a group of self-directed Interacso curious employees joined 3-month sprints to improve their skills while developing their personal passion projects.

Some of the participants created their own mobile apps, video-games or machine-learning algorythms. Project-based learning combined with hybrid interactions and a company-wide demo-day were tested internally.

Published the Future of Work Playbook

The Future of Work Playbook shares nine strategic “plays” that business leaders can take – in their own organizations and in partnership with others – to achieve a future of work that works for everyone.

The project was led by Tim Frost at Xynteo, a purpose-driven advisory firm founded in Norway that works with the world’s largest organisations to help them find new ways to grow.

Minds Studio was invited to participate in the creation of this initiative along with a community of leaders from business, policy and civil society, committed to supporting a more positive work future for all.

We look forward to continue strengthening this strategic collaboration in 2022, and we hope others could use some of the key learnings to improve the way they work and learn today.

Sponsored the EdtechX global challenge

EdtechX is a global student competition to source the best ideas to transform the future of learning and work. Winning teams receive a collective prize package worth $25,000. It includes mentorship, internship opportunities, subscription credits, and more from companies such as Google Cloud, IBIS Capital, or Transcend Network.

With this initiative, Minds Studio wants to keep growing its network of learning designers, engineers and Ed-techpreneurs to build a global talent network. Thank you to EdtechX for letting us be part of it!

Improved the way we design learning experiences with Metonomy

Metonomy is a Canadian company trying to answer the question: How do human beings help others in a productive way?

David Kohler is Metonomy’s founder and principal. He has worked with 1,000s of professionals in the last decade to understand this important question, and developed a series of trainings for coaches, facilitators and instructors. At Minds Studio, we took one of them in 2022 and wrote an extensive review of our learnings, that you can find HERE.

Setting the 2022 Intentions

Although some of our projects we are working on can’t be shared due to NDA agreements or because they not been launched yet, the samples displayed publicly provide a good summary of the kind of ideas that Minds Studio promotes .

The work done last year has positioned Minds Studio in a privileged situation to look at the future with optimism. Although the company is still young, 2022 is going to bring new opportunities to continue growing stronger.

These are some of the principles we would like to follow in the following 12 months, to keep aligned with our mission:

  1. Continue launching education products and services to build an inclusive and diverse society, instead of increasing inequality by only providing high quality education to those who are already privileged.
  2. Grow a trusted network of talented and reliable partners to build the future of education together, understanding that it is not a zero sum game, but a collaborative endeavor that will rise the tide for all of us.
  3. Increase the range and scope of projects geographically (Currently in the US, Europe and LatinAmerica), and start working with governments to scale the impact of life-changing learning experiences.
  4. Expand the horizon of our publications and research, publishing our findings regularly and through multiple channels.

We don’t know what 2022 will bring, but we definitely know where we are heading and with whom!

The journey has just begun,

Alvaro Sanmartin Cid

Founder of Minds Studio

2021 Thank you list

At Galileo, I would like to appreciate the trust of Kelly and Vlad, and the support received by the team (Nadine, Daniel, Kaya, Lenn, Stacey, Yho, Lizz, Maté, Serj, Mareile, and many more!) and all the guests that spend hours talking to us on Clubhouse. I really believe we are building the school of the future!

At PAZ, I can’t express with words my gratitude to Leti for all she is doing to make the project grow. This year, I would also like to appreciate Blanca, Rocío, Nadia and Max for jumping to bring the PAZ to a next level. I don’t want to forget to express my gratitude to the +100 mentors that are working with PAZ candidates every day.

At LIS, I would like to appreciate Carl and Amelia, who kindly invited me to participate in this amazing initiative with María, Isaiah, Waqas, Ebrahim, Marielle, Mattia, James & Hayley. Thank you for all insights and intellectual stimulation!

At AILabs, it’s been incredibly fun to build the project with Paula. I am super excited to learn more about Aesthetic Intelligence, a new concept to me, although it resonates with me deeply.

At Scoolinary, I would like to express my gratitude and professional respect to Jordi and Martin, who have created incredible products together. I learned so much with them. Also, thank you to the entire Scoolinary team and tutors for their collaboration through the design & launch phase!

At the Bitcoin Learning Group, I could not thank enough to Daniel Prince for his guidance and care through the Bitcoin community onboarding. Also, I express my appreciation to everyone that showed up to spend time with us learning about technology, philosophy, ethics, politics and even family building!

At the Interacso team, I would like to start thanking Oscar and Alejandro for all the years of trust and mutual support. Some relationships are more important than any business.

At Xynteo, I would like to say thank you to Mahima for keeping me in her mind to this opportunity, and to Tim and his team for making it such an enjoyable experience.

At EdtechX, I would like to thank the organisers and, specially to all the students that participated and interviewed at Minds Studio. 2022 will bring plenty of oppportunities to them!

At Metonomy, I deeply enjoyed the conversations with David, and his kindness to share his learnings with me.

In addition to those who were working with Minds Studio in 2021, I would like to appreciate the time that some people dedicated to learn and explore with me, even if we didn’t have a specific project or purpose.

You are (In no specific order): Akshay, Iván , Caroline, Christine, Xiangcen, Zamácola, Itziar, Lynn, Rafael, Gareth, Caleb, Joe, Alberto, Husayn, Pierre, Mathieu, Blaise, Ameer, Leah, Linna, Polkan, Felipe, Jose, Elliott, Ambica, Ruth, Declan, David, Jeff, Miguel, Danny, Sergio, Marta, Linna, Matthew, Jaime, Gabi, Scott, Santiago, Gonzalo, Julia, Jaime, Filmon and Dawn.

You have all been part of the Minds Studio journey, and I will always be grateful for your time and contributions.

Attending a 9 weeks intensive course on learning design and training skills.

Powered by Metonomy.

The amount of knowledge on meta skills (Learning how to learn) is growing exponentially. It is difficult to keep up with the speed of new techniques, experiences and tools developed to learn more effectively.

With the purpose of updating what I know -and what I don’t know- about learning new skills, I decided to join the course ideated by David Kohler, one of the most experienced learning specialists I know of.

The promise

In this 9-week training, the promise was to develop your skills as a trainer in a group of 6 people. Although it seemed a big commitment (4h/sessions was not something that I had done since uni), I was curious about it so I decided to give it a try.

The approach was clearly innovative, combining theoretical modules and practice environments where trainers could experiment with new approaches to facilitating learning. These were some of the goals showcased at the Metonomy website:

As many of the Minds Studio projects involve some kind of training, or design of learning environments, it seemed like a very good fit. Trained as an engineer, I felt this meta-skills training program could have a good impact on my theoretical knowledge about learning. It didn’t require any previous experience, so I enrolled in the next available cohort.

My main conclusions after the 9 weeks

If you don’t have much time, these are the main takeaways I bring home after spending 3 months on the Metonomy Skills for Trainers program:

you are probably doing it wrong

No matter how much experience you have training others, this experience showed me there is SO MUCH space to improve the way we design our programs. During the course, we had several opportunities to practice curriculum design, learning goals setting and delivering under time pressure. Having someone observing you, and giving you actionable feedback is a fantastic experience -if you are open to it-.

Nurture an effective learning environment

And that is not reading slides and thinking you are the smartest person in the room. Creating and nurturing an effective learning environment starts by having a clear set of learning objectives (That could be cognitive, but also psychomotor or affective). Once the goal is clear, using a proper lesson planning structure that matches the goals, combining 4 elements: conceptualizing, experimenting, experiencing and reflecting is the key to enable it.

What this means is that subject-matter expertise is not enough. You need pedagogical expertise too if you really want your students to walk out of the room having learned something for the long run.

Practice makes humble

During the course of 9 weeks, you design and implement 4 practical training sessions on different topics. All the other members of the group do it too, and you give feedback to each other. I can’t express the amount of lessons learned during the practice sessions. It is incredibly humbling to receive inputs again and again about your -probably outdated- ways of planning and implementing your course curriculum.

This is where I want to thank Gabi, Olivia, Soley, Helena, Sweta – and David, of course- for the valuable – and humbling- feedback provided. The course also provides a strong foundation on how to express performance-based feedback, which is incredibly useful inside or outside a training class.

Stop the guided tour and experience more

Measuring the time you talk while conducting training sessions is a very effective tool to keep track of how controlling you are as a trainer. If you are like me, you tend to design “guided tours, leaving little space for the learners to freely explore new areas of knowledge. By working on specific examples, one of my main take-aways has been to create learning experiences much more relaxed and exploratory.

An example could help capture this concept visually. If you were interested in learning about impressionism at a local museum, one approach would be to learn about it by buying a tour where someone would talk 90% of the time. You would hear about artists, dates, masterpieces, and we will probably forget the next day most of the information. That is the guided tour. There is a different way to approach this goal, by involving the audience in experiencing what impressionism is, reflecting on it, and applying it to their lives. Maybe that could involve exploring those artworks that inspired you, reflecting on why that happened and sharing it with a group. You could then attempt to draw your first impressionist piece. Receive feedback from an expert and your classmates. And so on.

Checking in and out

There is something softer, apart from the different tools and concepts shared during the sessions, that I bring with me from this course. I loved the way David checked in at the beginning and summarized what happened at the end of the sessions. It felt very cozy, warm, like catching up with a group of old friends before and after working hard. I think this is an important skill to master when you facilitate groups of people -especially online- as we tend to go directly to the subject that we need to discuss. People arrive to a training session in different states of mind, and before jumping on any task, it is worth listening and acknowledging them.

And yes, it’s worth it

As many great things in life, the course comes with a high price tag (Nearly $1,400 for corporate clients, and a cheaper options for non-profits, freelancers and students), but I definitely believe that it is a fantastic experience that empowers trainers to raise their game and provide a much more effective training. If you are currently a facilitator in a company, it is a perfect training for you. If you are a freelancer, I still believe it is worth the investment. David’s experience is gold and it will help you grow faster than any book or podcast.

The -longer- learning journey report

Since the beginning, the course is very different from any online learning course I have ever seen. The welcome email only asks you to create a Miro account, that is the central point where the course is going to take place. Instead of having endless videos to watch, there is no pre-recorded materials at Metonomy. Everything happens in a Zoom room with a group of 6 people.

The Miro board is the central place where you can find the content but also you can even “park” ideas to explore later with the group.

After getting everyone up to speed on how to use this tool, it becomes really interactive to participate in the session. Although the content is well structured and there is always a clear goal, there is flexibility to explore whatever the group is interested in discovering. This is a key learning I take with me, as sometimes things are planned in a certain way, but opportunities appear to experience something differently. As a trainer, you are supposed to detect those opportunities and focus on the learning experience, not just following a lesson plan.

SESSION 1: Defining training, curriculum and learning objectives.

After a round of introductions, the course starts from the basics of defining what the purpose of training is, and what differentiates it from other forms of facilitation or coaching.

As we all come to training with a different set of expectations, I found it very interesting to have to define and explain why I was going to spend 9 weeks learning about this, and what were my expectations of what I was about to experience. This is what I came up with:

The first key learning of this session for me was to understand that trainers are supposed to design and nurture an effective learning environment, combining subject-matter expertise (know the subject), subject-pedagogy expertise (Know how to master the subject) , and pedagogical expertise (Know what it takes for someone to learn).

The second was to learn how to design an effective curriculum, including goals, activities and assessments that allow us to effectively train others into learning a new skill. It was mind-blowing to practice how to write proper learning objectives, as it is usually the source of problems in class when they are not well defined.

A good learning objective describes a resulting competency, the environment that will be available to the student, and the criteria to know what has been achieved. Practising with the group how to set up good learning objectives was one of the most useful concepts in the course.

And finally, we went into lesson planning, where we discovered that there are frameworks (Such as BOPPPS or COARDS) that can be used depending on the domain of the learning objectives that have been set (cognitive, psychomotor or affective).

SESSION 2: planning and executing a training experience from scratch.

With a new set of tools under our belt, we went straight into practising in session 2. But before we got started, we had an important conversation about feedback.

Feedback is one of those things that we all say we like to receive, but we struggle to take when it is given. Many times, because we mix judgement with actionable performance-based feedback, our comments to others are not as effective as they could be.

It was an incredible learning experience to practice performance-based feedback during the second session, with practical examples of what other colleagues were presenting. It was also very fulfilling to receive feedback based on performance, without making it personal.

As the time was limited for our training sessions, it was interesting to observe how most of us tried to squeeze many learning objectives in a short period of time, making the training session very ineffective. We also tend to talk way too much, and we do not encourage enough participation in the audience. Even having extensive experience in teaching and designing education programs, it was humbling to be back on the whiteboard and question some of the most basic assumptions of our training.

After session 2, we all received a video of our training, and an analysis of the time we talked during the time it took us to run the activity. Too much talking, too little learning!

session 3: active learning and assessments

After our first hands-on activity, it was time to go back to the drawing board and analyse what was happening. Why did our sessions seem so passive and lacked interaction?

One of the Aha! moments of the whole course was the discussion about mental models, and how you need to deconstruct and break a mental model that is not working anymore, in order to be able to build a new one that works. (A fantastic example about this is the whole earth is flat vs earth is round experience)

After a fantastic discussion about mental models, we got into one of the beefiest concepts of the course: The Active Learning Cycle.

Although the concept is not new to many of us, it was the practice of that cycle in different situations that made it stick with me. In order to update our mental models, it is not enough to “tell people” a new way to think. It is the process of conceptualizing, experimenting, experiencing and reflecting that achieves that goal.

But what about assessment? It is so common to assess students using tests and exams, that we forget the actual purpose of assessing people. During this session, we explored 3 different kinds of assessment (assessment of learning, assessment as learning, and assessment for learning) and we committed to use the new tools we acquired in the next practice session.

session 4: implementing a training session using active learning and assessment

The second time preparing a lesson plan from scratch was interesting. We definitely became less ambitious about the material we will include, and we started introducing ways of assessing our participants’ knowledge in the topic we were about to discuss beforehand. I decided to use a tool called Mentimeter in order to get quick feedback from the audience instead of having to speak all the time.

The change was quite dramatic. All the training sessions on the second round were much more interactive, and although time was still an issue, we generally managed to complete our lesson plan within the timeframe. The feedback received from the participants was much more encouraging:

“Loved it, it’s so interactive right away.”

“Was engaged throughout. Not having to speak gave it more of a pace.”

However there were still challenges that participants brought up, that kept pointing towards some of the tendencies detected in the first training session. “The slides were too small”. “There was too much data to absorb”.”The post-testing activity didn’t match the learning goal”, were some of the inputs that I got from other participants and the trainer.

Overall, I felt progress. It was clear that it was far from perfect, but engagement was way higher and the whole experience was more enjoyable for the participants. Some of them expressed they would like to continue learning about it after the class!

SESSION 5: I HAD TO DROP

Something I realised during the course of the 9 weeks, is that committing to 4 hours of training could become really challenging on top of the work-week. I managed to juggle things during the first month, but at the beginning of the 2nd month it became too much, and I had to skip a session. I would say that at some point, all the participants needed a break, and this might be a good piece of feedback for Metonomy. Maybe a week of rest between the first month and the rest of the course could have helped us to breathe a bit between the sessions.

This also made me realise how challenging adult learning is. Even if you are interested, committed and motivated to participate in a learning activity, sometimes life is just too much. And that is ok, you should design programs with that in mind.

SESSION 6: PRACTICE ROUND 3, THINGS STARTED TO FLOW!

The third time I approached the exercise of preparing a training session from scratch, I felt I had experience in it, and I think this was my best session. As I had been quite controlling on my approach in the first 2 rounds, now I tried to play with the format to give more space to the participants, so they could explore more freely.

I designed the session so they could learn about each other’s passions. With a very simple game, the group had to write down things they are passionate about and try to guess who wrote what. The session was playful, simple and the flow was very smooth. The feedback was much shorter this time, and sweeter:

“It was fun, engaging and interesting topics, we are naturally drawn towards learning about this stuff.””It was great to learn more about each other”. There were comments related to the time, but not due to the lack of planning, but the willingness to continue playing the game. The environment of learning was there, and they enjoyed it.

By this time, I felt the entire group had already mastered how to prepare a good learning plan, with a clear and achievable learning objective, and an assessment that helped the group strengthen what was learned. We have definitely gone a long way in just 6 weeks.

As we all were getting better at it, David started helping us improve our questioning during the session, and helping us understand how we could improve our way of interacting with our audience (Saying “Any questions?” is not the best way to keep people engaged and inspired!). These are some of the pointers given during that day:

Session 7: other formats that we can use in our trainings.

As we got better in creating our training and making sure our participants were engaged in the process of learning, it was time to get inspired and increase our “vocabulary” on the training formats.

One of the greatest toolboxes shared during the course was liberating structures, a collection of interaction formats that can help facilitate groups of people to work together. We didn’t go through the 100s of potential formats that can be used, but we explored some of them. The Samoan circle or the Troika consulting were very interesting activities to participate in, and they provided a fresh new approach to interactivity with the audience.

These are some of the “liberating structures” that could be used to effectively work with groups of people.

By this point, the group knew each other really well, and we focused on feedback to keep increasing the effectiveness of our training. I felt like the group took over and David was simply facilitating us giving each other feedback to improve, and that felt really great. Now he was just challenging us to go further and crazier in our last training practice. Pushing us out of our comfort zone already!

SESSION 8: EXPLORING THE LIMITS

In the last practice session I felt like driving a fast car, exploring the limits that can be reached without breaking the engine. I started the session asking the participants to close their eyes, and imagine their last holiday. The goal was helping them experience something, before starting even to discuss what the learning goal was.

The approach was completely exploratory. The goal was to create the environment where the participants could learn about how others prepare and plan their yearly time off. However, the approach to reach the learning goal through an active learning cycle had completely transformed the learning plan. Now it was less of a guided tour, and more of a learning experience. Something had happened in the last 8 weeks! Maybe that “something” is called learning 🙂

The canvas of my last “experiential training” that aimed to help participants to learn how to take a good break based on other people’s experiences.

As with any experimental sesion, some things didn’t go as expected. But that was totally fine at this point. We had a strong “safe” approach to planning our training sessions, and we were just given space to play and explore other approaches to generate and nurture learning environments.

Session 9: wrapping up

The last session was mostly reflection about what we have learned in the last 8 weeks. It was also time to wish each other well and keep the connections for future opportunities. It did feel like a sweet and sour moment, because by this time the group was comfortable with each other and the pace of learning had accelerated towards the end.

Something I would have added to the course is some sort of peer to peer credit, that could help each other showcase our experience as trainers to third parties. At the end of the course I expected a credential that could allow others to verify the skills that have been acquired. Probably something like Accredible or Credly is something that could be added to the product in the future.

All in all, the experience has been fantastic and has opened my eyes to keep exploring ways to improve the way we learn and facilitate learning. I am very grateful to David, whose patience and leadership during the entire training has been incredibly inspiring to me.

Looking forward to my next Metonomy course!

Designing and launching Aesthetic Intelligence Lab’s new learning platform

The challenge

The Aesthetic Intelligence Labs team was looking for the best solution to launch a new online business: A series of learning experiences to help their audience understand what Aesthetic Intelligence means and how it can be mastered. However, they were drawning in an ocean of options, choices and configurations.

The Aesthetic Intelligence website landing page shows already an example of taste and elegance.

Aesthetic Intelligence Labs was co-founded by Pauline Brown, renowned expert in the luxury industry that helped to acquire, build and lead global luxury brands (such as LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Estée Lauder, and others) and Paula Oriol, a talented entrepreneur that trusted us to help them in this challenge.

The goal

We needed to help AI Labs build a beautiful platform, elegant, and FAST so people could start learning in less than 1 month. Their team had been working with a previous technology provider, but they did not reach the expectations and deadlines needed, so someone needed to step up NOW.

In our initial exploratory conversations, we agreed that we would need to rely on existing technology platforms in order to be able to launch on time. We would also need a platform that is visually attractive, as that’s the signature of Aesthetic Intelligence Labs. Our expertise in Ed-tech probably saved a few thousand dollars of trial and error before getting to the optimal solution for their needs.

In addition to it, some of the processes would need to be automated, so there was a need to connect several cloud services in order to provide a seamless user experience. We didn’t know all the answers in advance, but we liked the challenge, so we took this project.

The solution

Working directly with the leadership team, we started building prototypes in 3-5 day cycles that allowed us to explore different alternatives (From Thinkific to Moodle and other LMS). Each iteration allowed us to learn more about the program, the specific needs, and the main compromises that will be needed in order to reach the goal on time.

We finally decided to design this Learning Experience using Articulate 360 and host it at Rise, one of the most appealing solutions we could find in order to combine all the multimedia requirements of this course.

The implementation

The process took 1-2 weeks of exploration, and 2 weeks of implementation and testing before we launched in a private beta for some of the existing members of Aesthetic Intelligence Labs.

Once the first users started testing the platform, it was clear that some automations will need to be in place if the user base grew. For this reason, we worked on integrating it via Zapier with some of the services that we company used already.

This was one of the most complicated stages of the project, as some of the API connections were not working, and involved heavy experimentation and investigation in order to solve the issues that kept happening along the way.

Results

We managed to launch the project in the 5th week after the first call when whe started our collaboration and the platform is now up and running. We encourage you to visit Aesthetic Intelligence Labs to check it out.

What’s in the course?

Thanks to our agile working ethos, we managed to configure a product that allowed interactivity, experimentation and community building .

Also, Aesthetic Intelligence Labs team has been kind to share their feedback publicly, that you can find below. At Minds Studio, we have enjoyed this challenge and we look forward to keep learing with the AI Labs team!

The Aaesthetic Intelligence Labs feedback:

The Mindsstudio team helped us set up a learning platform in record time. 
More than collaborators, they have the ability to become part of your team and are always ready to take it a step further. Every challenge was overcome with quality and efficiency and where others would have said it was not possible, they insisted and tried to find another solution.

Paula oriol

Paula oriol

Director, aI Labs

“Alvaro is a leading e-learning expert and most importantly – he really cares. I would recommend Minds Studio to anyone looking to level up their upskilling and reskilling projects!.”

pauline brown

pauline brown

founder, ai labs

2020 At Minds Studio

Learning during “The pandemic” year.

In March 2020, the education -mainstream- system got the biggest future-proof stress test, and left many practices and mentalities behind.

Some people reached out to get help, some of them experimented with new approaches, and few adjusted their learning and teaching practices to a different reality. The majority kept repeating the same old formulas again and again, but slowly, and then suddenly, the future became the present.

Looking back to the 2020 work diary, I have looked into the projects that Minds Studio has been involved with. I tried to track objectively the effort and the results achieved. This is my attempt of summarise a huge collective effort that goes beyond the numbers, but needs numbers to move forward.

I believe have a very promising 2021 ahead of us. However, reality has taught us to hope for the best, but plan for a global pandemic/economic crash/climate crash/you-name-it….

Let’s focus on doing our best day by day, and hopefully time will put things in its place.

1. The Research

Minds Studio was commissioned by UNIR (Thanks to the Madri+D foundation) in 2020 to create the first “Futures of higher education” report. Over 150 hours of research went into creating an 80-Page document that aims to provide an overview of what’s coming nexti in higher education from what we can see now. *1

Futuros de la Educacion Superior

2. The Projects

This year Minds Studio has participated directly in the development of 6 different projects, 2 of them targeting children’s education, 2 in higher education, and the other 2 related to vocational training.

Children’s project

Galileo

Minds Studio has worked with Galileo since March 2020. Galileo is an innovative self-directed online school for students 8 to 18 who are homeschoolers, worldschoolers or unschoolers from all over the world.

We have led the design and implementation of 2 main initiatives: The Homeschooling Global Summit and the Family Experience Days. The former was a 10 days event with the 100 leading voices in the homeschool movement, and the latter was a 2 day live experience with 100 families learning at Galileo.*2

Since the start of our collaboration, this school has multiplied their student base X5 and now has over 175 families at this global alternative school.

Explorium

Explorium‘s neuroscience-backed Lights On® framework has helped 1,000s of families in the Lights On Academy change their mindset, find their passion and develop a portfolio of exciting projects in less than 1 year.

After learning more about self directed learning, and other alternative education models, Minds Studio partnered with Explorium to analyze and redesign some of the product features that could help the company expand the Lights On Academy to a new level in 2021.*3

Results of our work with Explorium coming in Q1 2021…

collaborations with UNIVERSITIES

Researching about the future of education and collaborating with some of the most cutting edge projects in the space is a privilege that doesn’t come very often. In 2020 we had the opportunity to contribute to 2 fascinating projects in this space.

Minerva

At this 4-year, US-accredited university, students take all their academic clases online, while attending experiential learning activities in 7 different cities around the globe. At Minds Studio we have been involved in creating and supporting the Minerva Partners Network in London, engaging with students interested in exploring Ed-tech as a professional future career.*4

London Interdisciplinary School

LIS is aiming to prepare students to tackle some of the most complex problems that we face in the world. The LIS curriculum cuts across the disciplines, equipping students with knowledge and methods from the arts, sciences, and humanities. In 2020, LIS got accreditation from the higher education regulator in England.

Minds Studio has been working with the LIS leadership team in the design of the first iteration of the LIS teaching tutorial structure. This new teaching methodology will be tested in Q1 2021 and hopefully implemented in Q4.*5

LEarning design for ADULTS

In 2020 we have worked with 2 projects dedicated to vocational training efforts, targeting very different individuals.

Scoolinary

Scoolinary aims to democratize the access to the best training in the hospitality sector through technology and online learning.

In this project, Minds Studio has participated in the design and implementation of Scoolinary PRO, a new product targeted to train & develop professional cooking skills.

This product is currently an internal BETA, and will be launched publicly during Q1 2021.*6

PAZ

The last but definitely not least important project. PAZ.ai is unlocking refugee tech talent in Europe. PAZ trains refugee professionals looking to adapt their knowledge and experience to the needs of Europe’s tech industry.

During this difficult year, PAZ managed to train over 60 professionals in relevant tech & soft skills, reinventing its business model, and helping 12 participants succeed in securing a new job during very tough market conditions.

Minds Studio participated in the design and implementation of the Ignite & Accelerate learning program, building a powerful mentors network. *7

PAZ Mentors

Paz increased x10 the number of candidates received, x6 the number of candidates trained and managed to achieve 80% success in its first 2020 cohort.

3. The product design & test

Minds Studio has designed and run 129 upskilling group sessions with 10 different groups in 2020, deepening our knowledge about what makes learning work, and what it doesn’t.

Our approach is content-agnostic, and we have focused on designing a learning method that cultivates a growth mindset and group accountability. That’s the reason why we have been able to help over 100 people learn all sorts of different skills, from user experience design, to computer games development.

Learning group

We are very grateful to all the participants from Exponent, Blablacar, PAZ & Interacso for their input and their feedback. This year we have tested all sorts of variants and possibilities, and we have started building a learning groups tech-product, that will be piloted in 2021.*8

Moving forward: 2021

Given the experience of 2020, what can we plan? It might sound idealist in this situation, but, at least, we would like to set our intentions for the year ahead:

  1. We would like to find research-based solutions to the most exciting education problems we can find. If you have a challenge for us, we would like to discuss it with you Here.
  2. If you are interested in designing solutions for the some of the most interesting Ed-tech companies in the world, we would like to get to know you. Email us at contact @ mindsstudio. com
  3. If you want to upskill your team in 2021. We are opening new groups soon. Check this out.

We don’t know what’s coming in 2021, but we know where we are heading.

Alvaro Sanmartin

2020 Thank you list:

*1. This work came to life thanks to José de la Sota and Federico Morán that ideated the project. Miguel Arrufat that took the risk to fund it, Rafael Puyol provided guidance, and many others that supported us in the process like Xiangceng Guo, Pierre Debuc, Edward Fidoe, Pola Orlowska, Elliott Callender, and many more.

*2. Very grateful to Vlad Stan and Kelly Davis, the founders of Galileo for their trust. I would like to highlight the support received by Yhosemar, Jenny, Daniel, Nicole and the entire Galileo team during the events. Of course, nothing could have happened without Frances Pak creativity and hard work.

*3. Glad that I interviewed Julia Black at the Homeschool Global Summit 2020. Our conversation enabled us to start working together in the 2nd part of the year, which I am very grateful for.

*4. Very proud to support Matthew Esquirne, Christine Looser, Maya Bahoshy and Sophie Mak-Schram in their efforts to provide a meaningful learning experience in London, despite the very difficult circumstances. Amal was fundamental to help us set up learning groups within the Minerva Student base.

*5. Some of the most exciting conversations this year have been with Ed fidoe, Carl Gombrich, Amelia Peterson and the LIS team. I’m looking forward to seeing this project flourish during Q3 2021.

*6. Jordi Ber is one of the finest entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. Thanks to him, Martin, Lorena, Vicente, Maria, and the entire team to help us build a great learning experience for the Scoolinary PRO product.

*7. The list of people that made PAZ possible would need another entire page. Thanks to the team (Led by Leticia Galdon, inspired by Ambica Varna, supported by Elliott Callender…), the participants and the mentors for your belief in something so unbelievably good.

*8. Thank you to the entire Interacso team, led by Oscar del Rio, to Alvaro Zamacola and his team at Blablacar, and to Daniel Vasquez for the support and feedback during the first experimental stages of the learning groups.

Minds Studio and Minerva’s experiential learning partnership in London.

Minerva Schools at KGI, is an accredited four-year global university program headquartered in San Francisco, California. It offers undergraduate and masters programs whose students attend fully online through Minerva’s Active Learning Forum.

The current 4 classes make a total of +600 students from over 70 countries. During their degree, they live in 7 cities — San Francisco, Seoul, Hyderabad, Berlin, Buenos Aires, London and Taipei!.

The beginnings

We have been part of the Minerva partners since 2018, when the first students cohort arrived in the city. Its philosophy and pedagogical approach has always been deeply aligned with Minds Studio principles and ethos, so were keen to know more about it.

One of the Minerva students’ experiential learning sessions in 2019.

The challenge

In June 2019, Minerva was looking for a partner to design the Experiential Learning Activities in London. Having been in touch since 2018, they trusted Minds Studio to help Minerva’s local team. The goal was to increase the number of student activities and engagement while increasing the Minerva partner network size.

The goal

Minds Studio agreed to design at least 5 brand new experiential learning activities. Participants would range from governmental institutions to public or private organizations. Sectors ranged from healthcare or international relations to policy, technology, consulting, finance or creative industries. We agreed we should always be aligned with students interests and career goals.

The solution

In order to maximize student engagement and usefulness for their future career, we started by analysing the 120 Minerva students capstone projects. Once we had a clear picture, we started clustering them in different areas of interest. As students arrive in London during the last year of their program, we primed the goal of generating useful professional relationships. The areas of interest we detected were:

Once we knew the topics we were going to explore, it was time to find the right partners. For each topic or area of interest, we looked for, at least, three people with 3 to 5 years of experience and a continuous learning mindset. This last bit was key for us, as we believe that partners should learn as much as the students from this experience, given the high caliber of Minerva graduates.

We looked at London’s top employers, and we managed to find highly talented individuals with extensive experience. Blackrock, Salesforce, Google, Sky, McKinsey, General Assembly, University of the Arts London, were some of the companies represented in the selection. They were very generous with their time, and we would like to appreciate their involvement in all the activities deployed.

Some of the 2019 Partners attending one of the workshops in London with the Minds Studio team.

The workshops

What would you have liked to know when you were about to start your professional career? we asked the Minerva Partners at the beginning of a series of meetings with them. We arranged responses in three categories: soft skills, hard skills and rare to find but very valuable skills in their fields.

Once we identified the different skill sets that were valuable to them, we moved into their role as employers. What is the process you (or your company) follow in order to hire a new candidate? We asked them. That question helped us understand the kind of real challenges we needed to prepare Minerva students for.

How can we simulate a hiring process that informs and helps students prepare for their future career opportunities? Was our final question. We listened to their answers and co-created the final version of the workshops with them. Many would actually end up leading them by the end of the semester.

Minerva students of the 2019 cohort attending Civitas, one of the activities with parners in London.

The results

Minds Studio finally created 10 fully designed workshops in collaboration with Minerva local London team. Some of these experiential learning activities included policy analysis under pressure, collaborative software engineering, or iterative product design. The feedback from students was incredibly encouraging.

“Thank you for sharing your city, I have learned so much interacting with the people and places of London. It’s been wildly inspiring to see so many young professionals creating positive change” – M20 Student, London

Thanks to the learning experiences that Minerva team implemented (Including pub nights, company visits or sport activities) 35 partners and +100 students bonded. At the end of the semester some of those relationships transformed in friendships, and even some of them became job opportunities.

One of the Minerva Partners in London during experiential learning activities with students.

At Minds Studio, we believe so much in Minerva students potential that we ended up hiring Frances, one of the graduated students. She was the lead designer and manager of the Galileo Family Experience Days in 2020.

We also developed fantastic relationships with other Minerva Partners. So much that,one of them -Elliott Callender-, got involved in developing our UNIR research about the Future of Higher Education.

Learnings

This project allowed Minds Studio to deepen our expertise in workshop design and Active Learning methodologies. It also allowed us to design a Collaborative Learning environment from scratch, involving public and private sectors.

Next steps

During 2020, we have continued exploring partnership opportunities with the Student Life team at Minerva.

We have also developed a communication channel with the Student Affairs team. Given our great experience with them, we aim to detect more Minerva students interested in learning design, to continue learning together.

Minds Studio helps Galileo grow its biggest Homeschooling Global Summit to date.

The challenge

On March 2020, the booming online platform Galileo was looking for ways to engage homeschooling, worldschooling and unschooling families in order to grow its strategic position during Covid-19 lockdown.

The Founders of Galileo trusted Minds Studio to design and implement the biggest Homeschooling Global Summit to date.

The goal

In conversations with the Galileo leadership team, we set the target of reaching at least 10,000 attendees and +100 experts in less than 3 months. The previous 2019 edition of this summit had reached nearly 3,000 people and 42 experts.

The solution

After 2-3 weeks of conversations with different parts of the organisation, we designed an initial project scope and plan of the brand new 2020 Homeschooling Global Summit, and presented it to the team.

The outline included the definition of the learning solution ( 10 learning days, 100% online on-demand recorded content) and the launch plan (including resources needed and main KPIs for successful delivery).

The implementation

Once the project design was accepted, Minds Studio led the implementation of this project from three different angles: Product & Tech design, Marketing planning and Content production.

Thanks to the integration of Minds Studio with Galileo’s existing team (We would like to thank from here to all of them!) we were able to build a complete new Summit with links to +100 interviews of worldwide experts, that can be watched on-demand for free. Some of them include:

All the interviews were scheduled, recorded, edited,uploaded and marketed through the Demio platform (The platform that Minds Studio identified as optimal in this case) in less than 8 weeks. The team consisted of 1 person building the Product & Tech, 2 people in Marketing, and 5 people in Content production.

Results

+80 Interviews were recorded with 105 speakers across 10 different days, and the content has been watched by more than 10,000 registered attendees.

Thanks to the solution implemented Galileo could also gather important data, including individual attendance to each talk, as well as the focus of the audience in each talk and their interests.

Sample of attendance summary to one of the HGS2020 talks

Learnings

This project has allowed Minds Studio to get a deeper understanding of self-directed education, getting to know some of it’s biggest thought leaders -such as John Holt, Peter Gray, Pat Farenga or Jerry Mintz– and the latest trends related to homeschooling, unschooling, micro-schools and alternative ways of education for children.

Next steps

After analysing the results achieved through the HGS2020 Summit during a Retrospective session, Galileo decided to continue working with Minds Studio to grow its Self-Directed Global School.

Why You Should Never Learn Alone

In this post we explore how learning with others, in a group or under the guidance of mentors, can be an effective approach for learning new skills. We identify how learning socially was commonplace for revered artists and thinkers – Da Vinci and Picasso. And look to contemporary research to reveal whether this approach is still relevant today considering the challenges faced when learning new tech skills. To conclude, we suggest some practical ways to start learning with others.

Learning socially has stood the test of time.

It’s a common theme in the story of some of our greatest minds. 

Acclaimed artist Picasso spent many evenings in the salons of Paris and Barcelona – places where people would enjoy deep discussion of politics, religion, philosophy, economics and of course art. 

Similarly, Da Vinci lived for many years in the Italian “Bottega”. A space, home to other like-minded individuals where he explored painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering and many other disciplines.

At first, it sounds counter-productive. 

Surely Picasso would have been better off spending the hours he spent in the salons – practicing at home with a paintbrush instead?

As would Da Vinci. He could have isolated himself to focus on his passions, using the hours freed up to focus, without distraction, on creating more masterpieces.

In reality, their time spent learning socially – exchanging ideas and exploring seemingly unrelated disciplines, is arguably what made their work great. 

Picasso turned the complex ideas he formed in the salons into art. It brought new meaning to his work, taking it from good to great. Da Vinci used the understanding of the world he gained from his mentors at the Bottega to think differently than anyone had before. It allowed him to invent new designs and acquire new skills with ease.

But how does this translate today?

Not all of us aspire to be renaissance artists and inventors. 

The skills most of us want to develop are in technology. 

They require logical thinking. They revolve around a screen. And although we are assembled in “teams” much of the delivered work is completed solo. 

So, if you want to learn something technology based like software engineering, data science or user-experience design, you might ask – is a social approach relevant? 

And how can time spent learning socially possibly beat extra hours studying in-front of the computer screen?

The truth is it’s not just a nice idea. 

Researchers find that learning together, is effective. 

(Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne, 2000; Oakley, Barbara & Brent, Rebecca & Felder, Richard & Elhajj, Imad, 2004; Springer, Stanne, & Donovan, 1997; Terenzini, Cabrera, Colbeck, Parente, & Bjorkland, 2001). 

Spending time learning socially allows us to overcome difficult challenges with the power of the group. It allows us to consider different perspectives and benefit from critical feedback of our work.

It’s particularly effective for problem-solving and critical thinking. In addition, the accountability you gain when learning with others can  keep motivation high and effort consistent (another critical strategy).

So with no Salons nearby and your nearest Bottega shutting shop in the 15th century. 

Where can you find like-minded people to learn tech socially with?

Here’s some ideas you can use right away:

Reach out to your network. 

Try to connect with someone who has already gained the skill you want to learn, or who works in a nearby field. Living busy lives ourselves we often assume that no-one will have to the time, but will it really hurt to ask for an introduction, or post out on LinkedIn? The offer of a coffee can go a long way – you might find a life-long mentor or at least find someone you can reach out to when you really get stuck.

Attend talks.

Websites like meetup.com and eventbrite.com allow you to find free tech events near you. Most talks are followed by a Q&A and the opportunity to connect with people working in the technology you are studying. Even if the topic is over your head or something you’ve already covered, hearing it explained from a different perspective can help form new knowledge or strengthen an existing concept.

Join the online discussion.

It’s not really the same, but if in-person isn’t practical for you because of your location or other commitments, it is possible to find communities online. You can find tech slack groups on slofile.com or ask questions and contribute to discussion on reddit.com. But be warned, this can descend into procrastination quickly.

There are many different opportunities to connect with other learners, but the key thing is to connect with people on a similar journey as you.

We hope this gave you some ideas for how to take a social approach to learning new tech skills. In our next post we’ll explore how a data-driven approach to learning can help you progress faster than normal.

Citations:

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Stanne, M. E. (2000). Cooperative learning methods: A meta-analysis. Minneapolis, MN:University of Minnesota Press.

Oakley, Barbara & Brent, Rebecca & Felder, Richard & Elhajj, Imad. (2004). Turning student groups into effective teams. Journal of Student Centered Learning

Springer, L., Stanne, M. and Donovan, S. (1999). Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69(1), p.21.

Terenzini, P., Cabrera, A., Colbeck, C., Parente, J. and Bjorklund, S. (2001). Collaborative Learning vs. Lecture/Discussion: Students’ Reported Learning Gains. Journal of Engineering Education, 90(1), pp.123-130.

Minds Studio: digital learning reinvented

We are not a school. Not a university. Not an online course… but we help you learn effectively the skills you need today.

We are in the middle of the Digital Renaissance.

It’s an unusual time when schools are struggling more and more to deliver the promise of education to pave a better life.

It’s an unusual time when 50% of the world’s workforce will need to be re-skilled or up-skilled in the next 5 years.

It’s an unusual time when alternative learning spaces like General Assembly(Now Adecco), Flat Iron School (Now WeWork), or Lynda.com (Now LinkedIn learning) are flourishing online and offline.

All of them are applying new tools, data, and capital to fill the gap between what the world needs and what academia can offer.

The truth is that we live an unusual time and education IS being reinvented as you are reading this. We just don’t see its wide acceptance yet.

If we were back in the Renaissance, we would be inspired by the stories of Leonardo da Vinci, the polymath who personalized the humanist ideal at the Italian “Bottega”.

The workshop where Leonardo lived during his apprentice years was where he learned about painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering and many other disciplines. He learned beside his mentor Andrea Verrocchio and other colleagues interested in the same topics. I believe we would call this place a “studio”, in the modern world: a space to learn and create under expert guidance, a space to fulfill your maximum potential.

Having worked for over 10 years in Ed-tech projects and new digital skills, including Udacity’s European expansion, and deploying Google’s Android Scholarships program in 5 countries, I feel ready to build a new kind of learning space: Minds Studio.

At Minds Studio, you will discover how to learn effectively, in less than a year, the skills the world needs today.

Not only are we going to need to upskill, but we are going to need to do it fast, and in a flexible way so we can keep up with our current job, family, lifestyle. How can this be achieved? Is it even possible?

Introducing… Minds Studio for individuals

After interviewing individuals that have successfully transitioned to a significantly better job in a few months (more details Here), I believe we can develop flexible, personalized ways to help individuals and teams re-skill and up-skill.

In order to do that, Minds Studio is creating in-person spaces around the world combining the flexibility of online learning with the encouragement of in-person guidance.

London is hosting the first AI Minds Studio from May. We will develop AI professionals in less than a year.

More info about Minds Studio for individuals can be found here.

Minds Studio for companies

These Minds Studios are also being deployed in-company where leaders recognize the strategic importance of continuous learning to corporate long term results.

Our aim is to help current and new digital professionals to develop the mindset and routines that will make them highly valuable and productive in a world of machine abundance, keeping the human connection at heart.

We have already started working in Europe and Asia in collaboration with businesses that believe in the importance of continuous learning such as Education FirstPAZ.AI or Exponent, to name a few.

If you are interested in knowing more about how to build a Minds Studio for your company, please let us know here.

Minds Studio advisors

The growing need to develop innovative educational plans and learning spaces inside corporations and governments led us to build a pillar of Minds Studio dedicated to rethinking the way organizations and societies learn.

We also advise leading actors in the education ecosystem such as the Telefónica Foundation, where we have been working on a new global education strategy and implementation of alternative education models in more than 15 countries in Europe and Latin America.

Join us

Remember we are not a school. Not a university. Not an online course…

We are a new kind of company that effectively prepares people to develop the new skills needed in this Digital Renaissance.

If you believe what we believe, come to learn with us.